2300km, but where to start?

As you can imagine, a 19day epic generates a fair amount of copy.

You can go right to the beginning of the whole ordeal, or the startline/day 1.

I'm looking at moving from a general ride report to a more up to date what's happening site. Yes, Freedom Challenge doesn't just finish in Paarl! When i get round to it, there'll be a PDF of the 19days reports.

Send some feedback (I'm aware that the whole layout is just, well kinda rubbish!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Day 1

The good thing about bunking with sheep farmers is that my wake-up call was right on time. 4am is considered lying in, so they were bright eyed and raring to go. The smacktalk was good round the breakfast table, everyone doing their best to cram as much in as possible.

raring to go

We got going to city hall (apparently the largest brick structure in the southern hemisphere) in a neat little train, Louis was very proud to show off a map holder that had more pvc downpiping than my house. Much fanfare round the start with cameras flashing and all of a sudden we were off. I remembered to reset the odometer, but forgot to switch on the tracker in the melee.

outside the hall

It was soon apparent that there were no real racers in this group as we slunk off to Bisley Nature Reserve in a group and then hit the trail for real. A few people thought I was a R2R entrant as some of the RASA guys really had brought the kitchen sink. I think Jaco and Carl had about 14kgs on their backs. I was having enough of a battle with my ~8kgs thank you. The absolutely clear skies of the last few days were long gone and rain would come, not if but when. We regrouped at the major turn off to the Minerva forest. I’d had enough of hanging around and got going whilst the rest changed all their kit.

welcome break from the rain
It was a nice steady climb through the forest, and I emerged on top alone with the rain starting to come down steadily. It didn’t stop for the next 12 hours. A quick up and over the main hill and we got treated to warm soup and coffee in a tractor shed/railway bar. I can only imagine the view from the porch, as all we had was grey.

hung out to dry
We set out en masse and klapped down the first of many extended downhills. It was great having Quentin and Rohan in the group as they'd done R2R and RASA the year before and it showed. Somehow 15 kept together over the next few stretches of soccer field, river and forest sections. Soon we were back into a long forest drag uphill and it spread out again. We learnt how to deal with cows in the path and popped out the other side to another long drag down into the depths of the Umkomaas valley. Picking through the road in the wet, your eyes just picked up the flying mud and rain mix and it was the welcome sight of Greville setting up the gas stove at the river bridge to these battered eyes.
Shane after his 'no rain today' prediction

There was a murmur about a moerse hill coming up next amidst all the photo taking and bravado. Most of the group chose to skip the hot chocolate wait and start up in earnest. I got my sugar and rusk fix and chased them down, eager to get the last twenty kays done and move indoors. The climb was indeed of the moerse category, probably 600m gain in 9km. I think it was Kipling who described the grass covered hills as beautiful beyond singing of them, but he must have had sunshine that day as it was nothing but a slog to us. Allendale farm, our overnight stop, eventually came into view and I pulled in a bit ahead of the rest to the first cookie, soup, sarmie, coffee, bath – everything. Would I be pushing on? pffft! It may be a race, but its a holiday too. I got put into a gorgeous little cottage overlooking the lake, and got busy with a fire to warm and dry our bodies and clothes over boer maak 'n plan drying racks. To my horror fine grit had got into my cycling pants somehow (osmosis?) and my three week battle against the inevitable saddle sores started on the back foot.

When I say it rained, it actually poured. We'd find out later that the same system put Port Shepstone under water a few hours south of us. Once you're wet, you're wet and it doesn't get too cold if you keep moving (except for my poor little useless fingers – waterproof gloves next time!). It does however result in wind coming from all sorts of directions and you end up carrying extra kilograms which is no fun up monster hills. Greville said we'd probably just gone through the toughest first day ever – nice.

We got our first taste of the wonderful hospitality that night; with food, drink and laundry going into overdrive. Of course there were many warstories already, especially with some stragglers pulling in after dark. Jaco and Louis were both carrying injuries coming into the race and took it slow, really slow. Would they recover for another big day tomorrow?There was the issue of the 'final dump', where you are allowed to leave whatever you want behind and it'll get taken to the finish for you (after that, anything you don't want you kiss goodbye). I must have planned well as I left nothing.

Day 1 – Pietermaritzburg – Allendale 101dkm, 3629m altitude gain
6am - ~3pm; total 9 hours

1 comment:

steve said...

I have since been told, it was not Kipling but Alan Paton who wrote that about Hela Hela and the valley of the Umkomaas. details, details

Who? the author of 'Cry, The beloved country'